Monday, February 26, 2007

Musharraf In Trouble at Home

Poor old Pervez, he's getting it from all directions. George Bush is demanding that he crack down on al-Qaeda while his own people are giving him hell for being Bush's puppet.

Hundreds of female students from an Islamic seminary in Islamabad have occupied a public library demanding that Musharraf rebuild a half dozen mosques the government destroyed because they were built on illegally seized lands and dozens more demos are planned.

According to the LA Times, the protest is about a lot more than a handful of mosques:

"...the dissident Muslim cleric who appears to have masterminded the protest has parlayed it into a broader challenge to Musharraf's authority, at a time when the president is under growing Western pressure to act against Islamic militants who find sanctuary in Pakistan.

"'People are angry that Musharraf is a puppet of America,' said Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who together with his cleric brother, Abdul Aziz, runs the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, which adjoins the girls' seminary and the library. 'That is the heart of the matter.' Pakistani authorities view the mosque as a hotbed of radicalism, and orders are out for the arrest of both clerics.

"The confrontation is playing out against the backdrop of some of the most stringent state precautions in years against suicide bombings by Islamic militants in Pakistan, which have claimed scores of lives since the start of the year. Attackers have targeted the capital's international airport, a luxury hotel, a courtroom and various security installations.

"The mosque protest appears to be an explicit warning to Musharraf against bowing to Western demands that he reform the country's network of more than 13,000 madrasas, or religious schools. Many are known to have direct links to militant groups that have been staging attacks both in Pakistan and abroad, and have sent fighters to battle North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops across the border in Afghanistan.

"The young women now say they will not abandon their protest until Sharia, or Islamic law, is imposed throughout Pakistan.'That is the only way that this will end,' said Amna Adeem, a 20-year-old protester wearing a black veil that left only her flashing brown eyes uncovered. Like many of the seminary students taking part in the sit-in, she is from Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, which is far more religiously conservative than Islamabad, the relatively cosmopolitan seat of government."
As though he didn't have enough problems with appearing to be a puppet of Washington, Dick Cheney made a surprise visit to Musharraf today to pressure for a crackdown in the tribal lands. Cheney's timing, and judgment, are astonishing.

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